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Published: Tuesday, 12/11/2007

2 explosions rock Algerian capital; 45 dead including 10 UN staff members

ASSOCIATED PRESS

ALGIERS, Algeria -Two car bombs, one of which targeted the U.N. refugee agency's offices, killed at least 45 people including 10 U.N. staff members Tuesday, authorities said.

Jean Fabre of the U.N. Development Program said it was still unknown who died or which U.N. agencies they represented. Fabre said he received the information from Marc Destanne De Bernis, the agency's top official in the Algerian capital.

The explosion occurred around 9:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m. EST) and blew off the front off the U.N. refugee agency building, said UNHCR chief spokesman Ron Redmond. It apparently caused even worse damage to the main U.N. building housing the U.N. Development Program and other agencies diagonally across the street.

Tuesday's attack recalled the Aug. 19, 2003, attack on U.N. headquarters in Baghdad with a truck bomb that killed top U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 21 others.

The civil protection agency said one attack killed 30 people Tuesday and that a second blast left another 15 people dead.

Public radio, Algiers Network 3, said the two bombs went off about 10 minutes apart. Some victims of one of the attacks had been riding a school bus, the official news agency APS said.

Although there were no immediate claims of responsibility, suspicions quickly focused on the North African wing of al-Qaida.

The date the 11th could point to an Islamic terror link. Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa claimed responsibility for attacks on April 11 that hit the prime minister's office and a police station, killing 33 people.

Algeria has been battling Islamic insurgents since the early 1990s, when the army canceled the second round of the country's first-ever multiparty elections, stepping in to prevent likely victory by an Islamic fundamentalist party.

Islamist armed groups then turned to force to overthrow the government, with up to 200,000 people killed in the ensuing violence.

The last year has seen a series of bombings against state targets, many of them suicide attacks.

Recent bombings have been claimed by al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa. That was the name adopted in January after the remnants of the insurgency, the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, or GSPC, formally linked with al-Qaida.

Once focused on toppling the Algerian government, the group has now turned its sights on international holy war and the fight against Western interests. French counterterrorism officials say it is drawing members from across North Africa.

A Sept. 6 attack during President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's visit to the eastern city of Batna killed 22 people, and a suicide bombing two days later on a coast guard barracks in the town of Dellys left at least 28 dead.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.



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